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Lesbian Rights in Europe and beyond

The lives of lesbians are shaped by a range of factors, including social and economic rights, the respect for women's rights and gender equality, and the respect for LGBT rights. The situation of lesbians often remains largely unknown and unaddressed. There is a lack of visibility in the women's movement on the one hand, and little recognition or visibility also in the mainstream LGBT movements.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

3rd December 2013 15:15

Alessia Valenza

The Women’s rights and Gender equality and the GUE/NGL in the European Parliament organised a workshop on Lesbian Rights in Europe.Several MPs and activists took the floor.

Marie Josèphe Devillers of the Coordination Lesbienne en France was one of the speakers of the workshop. Read her presentation below :

The Coordination Lesbienne en France, a coordinating body is a national movement connected with about 2000 Lesbians.

In 1997 it was created :
– To bring together Lesbian feminist groups as well as individual women;
– To fight against lesbophobia and all discrimination;
– For Lesbian visibility and rights;
– In an egalitarian and secular society of solidarity;
– The CLF, along with its member organizations, is feminist and is for the abolition of prostitution.

What is the context nowadays in France
• extreme right-wing parties are more and more present, their ideas seem to be spreading faster and faster into society : racism; anti-muslim hatred, lesbophobia, homophobia
• Under a socialist government, the gays and lesbians have recently been granted access to same sex marriage and adoption.
• The social and economic situation is far from bright, affecting lesbians as it affects women.

In this context what do we think most important ?
1-Struggle against lesbophobia.
We are very keen on using lesbophobia and not homophobia as terms because we think that homophobia doesn’t cover lesbophobia at all. Discrimination against gays and discrimination against lesbians doesn’t proceed the same way. For example boys, as young as 10, are expected to grow and develop amongst their friends, mostly outdoors, where man’s virility is the common low. Often, attempt to escape the pregnant virility model is punished with violence. Girls have less access to the outside world as they are more often kept within the family circle where the pressure is very strong to follow heterosexual gender roles. In some countries, forced marriage or even rape is the punishment for such behavior.
Of course there is a law against homophobia, but lesbians are still facing lesbophobia in the society and at work . Furthermore lesbophobia is there, within our institutions, based on stereotypes on lesbians. For example, lesbians asylum seekers have seen their claim for refugee status, based on their sexual orientation, turned down. Having children or having been married, they were disqualified as lesbians and thus denied the right to ask for asylum, a real discrimination case in our institution.

2-Struggle for individual rights
Same sex marriage presented as a step towards equal rights, is in fact limited to equalizing the situation between homosexual couples and straight couples.
Marriage, and all other official marital arrangements, offers advantages like reduced inheritance fiscal tax, transfer of the flat lease to the survivor of the couple, social coverage and survivors’ pensions. These are "derived rights" as opposed to "individual rights."
These measures, resulting from family policy of another age, introduce inequality between single people and couples. While society repeatedly calls upon our responsibility as citizens and while autonomy is a feminist demand, our social and fiscal system sees us as part of a family or of a couple (joint income tax for example) sending the individual into dependence.
And for those of us who are for an egalitarian, secular society with a sense of solidarity, for whom autonomy is the key to real freedom, there is nothing.
That’s why we have to rethink the entire functioning of our society on the fiscal and social level, while studying alternate solutions such as the “Danish system”. In Denmark, the core of society is the individual and not the family or the couple or the Unconditional Basic Income, etc.

3-Struggle in the name of equality against the prostitution system and the legalization of surrogacy
Our relationship to the gay movement in the 1970s proceeded more from our common stance in contesting heterosexual and heteropatriarchal norms than from our situation as a discriminated-against minority. Now, today, in this post-marriage period, what do we still have in common?
In many areas we find ourselves on opposing sides of the battlefield, the issue of surrogate motherhood being the most convincing indicator. We are against the system of exploiting women through surrogacy. For the same reason, we are for the abolition of the prostitution system.
Working with the LGBT organizations we came up against what one of us described as “homopatriarchy”, with their demand for surrogacy as a right, and their often violent contestation of any proposal against the prostitution system. This situation leads us to question our alliances.
Fortunately, our positions are shared by the Lesbians of gay and Lesbian organizations, by gays who come from the political left or far-left, and by feminists, that is to say by organizations and individuals on the side of equality.

4-Battle against criminalizing of lesbianism and homosexuality

Worldwide decriminalizing of Lesbianism and homosexuality is a life-and-death issue for thousands of Lesbians in the world. In this context Lesbian solidarity is vital. Concretely it means supporting Lesbian refugees in our countries, which is becoming an important commitment for the Lesbian movement. We must also build links with Lesbian organizations trying to get established in countries where homosexuality is criminalized.


Marie Josèphe Devillers
Pour la Coordination Lesbienne en France


See the flyer of the workshop in the pdf document attached.